The post is motivated by the answer I saw in Quora to a question that went like this “Where is this startup hype going to end?” The author went on to describe why he wants answers to the above question. His premise was that everyone and their mother is starting a startup and that is a clear indication of a boom and even people who know nothing about Internet are working on something. He was more interested to learn about How is this trend going to evolve, how is it affecting our society and where will it end up? All valid and relevant questions but these should be the least of the worries of any startup. The biggest worry should be how well you are iterating the Build-Measure-Learn cycle to improve your Product-Market fit and how quickly are you scaling up your customer base, market share and revenue, in addition, how efficient are you with the cash in the bank so that you can continue to extend you runway. Remember the biggest challenge a startup faces is Running Out of Money! the usual stuff.
I really like the top answer on the topic as well. If you have time go read it, it is insightful but I don’t really agree fully with the assessment that Interest Rates drives the engine of the startup world, sure it helps a lot when the cost of capital is low to be able to raise money but the biggest value while building a company is how cheaply you are able to run the business. The author to the answer refers to Paul Graham‘s Cockroach Essay. It is one of the classic essays from Paul Graham. I could not agree more to that essay, the reason a startup succeeds or fails is 99.99% dependent on the quality of the founders. This means “what matters is who you are, not when you do it. If you are the right sort of person, you’ll win even in a bad economy. And if you’re not, a good economy won’t save you.” The second point that Paul makes is how to make your startup recession-proof, it is “exactly what you have to do anyway: run it as cheaply as possible“. The most important lesson in building a startup is getting into the discipline of bootstrapping and Paul puts it “be the cockroaches of the corporate world. The immediate cause of death in a startup is always RUNNING OUT OF MONEY. So the cheaper your company is to operate, the harder it is to kill. And fortunately it has gotten very cheap to run a startup. A recession will if anything make it cheaper still”. Paul wrote this in October 2008, It is even cheaper today to run a company.
I distinctly remember those days in October when the whole financial system in Iceland had just collapsed and I got fired, one of the most liberating and conflicting experiences of my life. I need to thank the one who decided that I am not worth being part of the “team”. I did not do the conventional wisdom thing of either going back to school or trying to get another job. I did what Paul recommends that is be an Investor when the times of tough. I had no money, but found ways to raise the money convinced my partners that we should be building equity when the times are bad. The jury is still out on whether the decision was right or not. But we run a very tight ship with our operations, our partnership in my opinion has the lowest cost to run, it is about 0.6% of the capital we have invested. I know that we are cheaper in running our investment company than even Vanguard. This last couple of years has been a humbling lesson in building my discipline to endure the pain and sacrifice. I don’t have any sympathy for anyone who wants to do a startup but does not want to sacrifice. Like they say it is like running a Marathon, there is no short cut.
- Work at a Startup 2012 (alexisohanian.com)
- Surviving, Thriving and Splitting on the StartupBus to SXSW (tech.li)
- 40 Startups Scout for Student Entrepreneurs at MIT StartLabs Startup Career Fair (bostinno.com)
- Starting A Startup These Days Requires Social Media Marketing Says New Report From Shoestring Publishing (prweb.com)
- Rackspace Startup Program Spotlight: Masterbranch (rackspace.com)